Solar panels less of a no-brainer

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by SirRichie » Sat Dec 26, 2015 2:33 am

ssilk wrote: What I'm really going with this whole discussion is, that the current handling of energy is in the long term boring, after you get solar. Steam engines are much more appealing. :)
And here is where the crucial point. It is boring in a low-maintenance sense. For a game about automation, I do not see a problem here, but as said, I like The Phoenixian's suggestions.

Also, I still find randomized power generation not that of a good idea. Either it is just a way of making solar/accu more expensive as I outlined. Or, if you introduce heavy randomization, as you just suggested, then it becomes a game of chance. This could very well mean that my 30+ hours factory is laid to waste because I was unlucky with the power generation. I think that would be flawed game design. Of course you can say that this is the price for solar, but then why have it at all?

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by bobucles » Sun Dec 27, 2015 3:42 pm

Also, I still find randomized power generation not that of a good idea. Either it is just a way of making solar/accu more expensive as I outlined
That's not exactly true. In the grand scheme of things a single cloudy day per week is not a huge loss of energy. However it makes a HUGE difference in the viability of night time energy storage.

Solar panels and accumulators work because the factors are always known. Once you get the ratios down everything works without a hitch. As soon as you throw a curveball into the mix, you don't know what you need anymore. What if there's one bad solar day? You suddenly need FIVE TIMES the accumulators to cover the gap. Two days in a row? You need too many to count. On a good day those excess accumulators aren't doing anything useful, making them a ridiculously expensive way to brute force the solution. Eventually loading up so many "emergency" accumulators gets so wasteful that the solar/accu strategy falls apart, it simply can not be sustained. You NEED a backup plan, which means you need to automate a real solution. That's another puzzle to solve, and puzzles are a good thing(tm) for factorio.

What if a player just wants to shut off their factory on bad days? That's certainly a possible solution. What if they want to switch to coal backup? That's another solution. What if they want to run seperate grids for low and high priority energy networks? When solar isn't a guarantee, you suddenly have plenty of things to think about.
Solar energy dependent on pollution
This has kind of nasty repercussions. When you make more pollution you get less solar energy, which means you need more coal power, which makes more pollution, which makes it harder to break the cycle.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by SirRichie » Mon Dec 28, 2015 12:30 am

bobucles wrote: What if a player just wants to shut off their factory on bad days? That's certainly a possible solution. What if they want to switch to coal backup? That's another solution. What if they want to run seperate grids for low and high priority energy networks? When solar isn't a guarantee, you suddenly have plenty of things to think about.
I very much agree that this makes for interesting puzzles. I am, however, concerned that this may very well take a different direction, for two reasons. One: if solar causes so many things to deal with, forces me to come up with complex construction setups, I might very well just bruteforce the solution. Yes, 5 times the accumulators is expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, still not that much to deal with, if I get free, easy power for it. Two: If I want enough backup power to sustain my factory even when my accumulators have run dry, I can simply ditch solar completely. Sure, in the times to sun, I will not pollute the planet that much, but let's face it: if you have a large factory, pollution is rarely a concern.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by The Phoenixian » Mon Dec 28, 2015 6:17 am

SirRichie wrote:
bobucles wrote: What if a player just wants to shut off their factory on bad days? That's certainly a possible solution. What if they want to switch to coal backup? That's another solution. What if they want to run seperate grids for low and high priority energy networks? When solar isn't a guarantee, you suddenly have plenty of things to think about.
I very much agree that this makes for interesting puzzles. I am, however, concerned that this may very well take a different direction, for two reasons. One: if solar causes so many things to deal with, forces me to come up with complex construction setups, I might very well just bruteforce the solution. Yes, 5 times the accumulators is expensive, but in the grand scheme of things, still not that much to deal with, if I get free, easy power for it. Two: If I want enough backup power to sustain my factory even when my accumulators have run dry, I can simply ditch solar completely. Sure, in the times to sun, I will not pollute the planet that much, but let's face it: if you have a large factory, pollution is rarely a concern.
I've been struggling to put my finger on what my problem was with eclipses for a while now but I think this here encapsulates it:

With an Eclipse blocking light for a period of time, solar is no longer a core power supply. Rather, solar and accumulators instead become a power supplement. In theory, you can run a base off of of only solar power. In practice, this requires either a massive expense, or a very complex solution. Moreover, while requiring a complex solution is a worthy goal, in this case it's not a complex solution in order for advancement but instead that complex solution is still consigning yourself to having a worse base because of it. (via turning parts of it off.)

Now I'm fine with solar being massively expensive, I'm fine with it being massively complex. I'm fine with it being both. The problem is that the effort you put in should match what you get out and, while solar as it stands is too little effort for too much gained, this goes too far in the opposite direction.

If you do a lot of work, you should receive a significant reward. This is especially true if all that work is done within the framework of the game's values: That of automation and complexity.

Which isn't to say that any sort of light variance is bad, but I don't think eclipses are the way to do it.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by ssilk » Mon Dec 28, 2015 3:55 pm

Good points.

There are two things, that should be considered:
a) You have more possibilities then. Which is always good. More possibilities without introducing more complexity (there is just this little randomnes) into the game is in my eyes always a good way to go. The rest can be done as the player wants to solve it. He can make a very complex scenario with mixed power and swiitches etc. or just a simple steam engine setup.
Or you can see it also differently: Now, after research of solar/accu, one of the best way to solve the game is to go into that direction. Then - by introducing this simple randomness - this isn't so clear anymore, because it depends on so many factors, that nobody can say: "This is the right way".
Which is good, cause there should be no "This is the right way to play Factorio".

b) Other parts of Factorio will be also developed. For example the blueprints. For 0.13 there is a blueprint-book implemented. I admit that it is completely unknown to me, how bpb's in 0.13 will work, but I'm sure, that we then will have soon blueprint-books. And blueprints around "energy". Complex circuits for example that are able to switch your factory partly off. Simple setups for solar-fields. Solar-panel production. Etc. All that makes the "work" easier. A lot easier. Of course you can do that on your own, but if you don't want to, just download some bpb's (blue print books).
Or new mods: A "weather forcast combinator", that is able to look into the predictions for weather/eclipses etc. and turn on your steam power long before that, so that you come better through.

So you can decide to use such stuff, or not. You have nearly no disadvantage, if you don't use that but you have a lot more fun, if. ;)
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by bobucles » Mon Dec 28, 2015 4:54 pm

What's such a downside to having an energy star[:)] compliant base? You're just going to run every device on permanent hot standby? How will you expect to expand into CPU breaching territory if you won't cut CPU cycles where they count? It's practically a requirement for everything nowadays.
The problem is that the effort you put in should match what you get out and, while solar as it stands is too little effort for too much gained, this goes too far in the opposite direction.
Actually it only needs two components to make the setup REALLY EASY:

1) A circuit breaker to manage electrical networks. As long as it can respond to automated input it should be fine. The devs have actually shown art for a circuit breaker so it's definitely on the way.

2) An electrical sensor to detect when energy is misbehaving or high or low or whatever. A sensor to detect solar levels may supplement this, but is not required. Players have run clever setups to do this in an ad hoc way but an official sensor would still help.

That's all you NEED. When energy gets low, disconnect a factory circuit. Or connect a steam power circuit. Or just brute force it with more everything. Do whatever you want.

Weather events are definitely game changing enough to be a meaningful map option. With normal settings having a bad solar day 10-20% of the time isn't going to break solar. No. It won't. It's still a lot of solar. On a high setting having 75-90% shady days will absolutely devastate solar strategies.

Don't forget you can also have a "full moon" or "nearby nova" type of event or a "mirror satellite" that allows solar to generate during the night. Modders are clever, it doesn't have to be one way.
Other parts of Factorio will be also developed. For example the blueprints. For 0.13 there is a blueprint-book implemented. I admit that it is completely unknown to me, how bpb's in 0.13 will work, but I'm sure, that we then will have soon blueprint-books.
The simple option is to have a blueprint book act as a carryable "chest" for blueprint pages. That way a large number of blueprints only occupy one inventory slot, even if it has to be a special equipment slot.

The best option is to let players import and export blueprint pages from their hard drive. All that effort that went into building your favorite base can now be carried between games.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by SirRichie » Wed Dec 30, 2015 12:49 am

I still think any variant we come up with either is just a little nerf for solar, in which case the easy fix (from the player's perspective) is to build more.
Anything that cannot be solved by building some more (not excessively more) solar panels entirely breaks solar and renders it near useless.

Maybe The Phoenixians's suggestion from a few posts up is the only one which I've seen that makes solar more interesting, without introducing just more annoyance around it to discourage its use.

Personally, I think solar is fine as it is at the moment. It is a wonderful reward for advancing in the tech tree. Yes it is easy to use once you have it with nearly no drawbacks. But really, so what? If that makes the game to easy for you, just don't use solar.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by bobucles » Wed Dec 30, 2015 1:52 pm

The best solar solution is going to affect the net value of panels as little as possible, while achieving the maximum output in how players have to rethink their gameplay. I don't think that's an unfair statement to make. That being said, there have been multiple solutions brought up in this thread and earlier ones:

1) Change the raw data values of solar panels/accumulators.
This is a direct nerf to one of the components of the solar system. Either the components cost more, or they do less on a regular basis. This nerf is overcome in a direct 1:1 way by simply putting more resources into the solar system. In the end nothing changes except maybe how annoying it is.

1b) Cause pollution to reduce solar power
This is along a similar vein to a direct nerf. Players will try to sneak solar power way out to the fringes of their base. Productivity modules are super polluters so solar will become vastly more difficult in that regard. In the end the player pays a higher tax on their solar power and just liek builds moar in a 1:1 way.

2) Solar panels suffer decay/upkeep of some variety.
The energy you get from solar panels must be maintained in some way. In the long term, this means that iron and copper have to be constantly reinvested to generate energy. Basically, iron and copper become coal Mk. II.

If you thought finding coal for a gigawatt base was a problem, now try finding spare iron and copper to do the same! Productivity modules get screwed over big time because they turn energy into extra resources, buuuut you need to spend resources to get the extra energy. It's a vicious cycle. Players will have to discover a hundred new ways to shut down unused factory bits and conserve energy like never before, lest they burn all their material goods on solar power. Racing to get resources just to keep a megabase's lights on does not seem to me like the spirit of Factorio.

Expect players to dramatically cut down on solar use and go for the next best infinite energy source: fuel oil. There's no material upkeep on fuel oil, so should we aim to nerf that as well? Why should solar panels decay when nearly everything else has moving parts but never needs upkeep? Is that not an inconsistent message to deliver? Maybe the devs just hate renewable energy? This solution does bring up a bunch of weird things that will have to be addressed in some way.

3) Eclipse/weather obstructions causing intermittent system loss
Solar systems lose their 100% reliability. When the system goes down it becomes useless or nearly so until it is operational again. The actual numbers here are fungible, but the sweet spot is probably somewhere around a major solar loss 5-15% of the time.

Players here argue that you can simply build MOAR to overcome a complete system loss, and that is indeed probably true. But no number of solar panels can overcome a complete loss of the system. Some quick math determined that you need about 5 times as many accumulators to survive just a single day on battery power, and if there is an extra day it can be 10x or more. Solving a solar shortage is no longer a direct 1:1 solution to just liek build moar. Players who brute force the solution could instead be paying 5x, 10x, or more resources just to survive a 5-15% loss in overall solar power. That's an obscene solution and totally inappropriate for a serious base builder.

A more appropriate gameplay solution is to figure out how to survive the rare days that solar doesn't work. Maybe you switch over to steam. Maybe you cut off parts of the base. Maybe you turn everything off. It's all up to the player to figure out what to do. That's what we like to call a "puzzle", and one with a rather modest difficulty. As soon as the player solves it they move on to the next puzzle in Factorio.

Besides, you know it's going to be great when a new player gets rolled by biters during an eclipse. It will be a dumb mistake, albeit a very fair one as long as the game tools allow players to solve their energy issues.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by The Phoenixian » Wed Dec 30, 2015 6:54 pm

Okay, a few points,


One: this is a bit of a nitpick but
bobucles wrote:The best solar solution is going to affect the net value of panels as little as possible, while achieving the maximum output in how players have to rethink their gameplay. I don't think that's an unfair statement to make.
The first half of this isn't really important, except as a thing that emerges from a dozen other factors. The value of solar panels can be changed a lot so long as,

1: The effort the developers put in is worth the engagement of the players out.
2: The value of solar panels as a solution is weighted against the engagement player has setting up solar panels, vs setting up any other power system.

So in short, I would say that the value of solar panels should be balanced against the difficulty of the puzzle they provide. ("Interestingness of the problem" in my previous words)


Two: This bit?
bobucles wrote: That's what we like to call a "puzzle", and one with a rather modest difficulty.
Is very condescending. For these forums at least. Seriously, if we didn't not only know what a puzzle is, but also decide for ourselves that Solar as it stands is a boring puzzle, we wouldn't be complaining about it the way that we are.



And lastly, but certainly not least, because you skipped my bit, I'll note that while I opened up solar-thermal as way to make a resource cost work without repair packs (by having a very small oil cost at the highest efficiencies instead), in actuality it falls under a very different category:

4) Increase the system complexity of solar.

Fairly simple: a more complex system give the player more principles to work with, more pieces to the puzzle as it were, and they think harder to set things up. Once things are set up however, everything is fairly simple to copy into a blueprint and paste.



So, allow me to go into this in a bit more depth:

Solar-roadwaysthermal. Step one: The basics.

The reason I proposed Solar Thermal, and the beautiful thing about it, is that its complexity scales with its efficiency: You can very easily have an offshore pump at one end, run pipe through a few dozen panels, run a steam engine off the heat, and call it a day. You'll run into problems with losing working time of course as the fluid needs to evaporate each morning, but the imaginative player has many ways to counter that, from simply adding backup boilers to, accumulators as we know them, to storing hot water produced by day, for use by night, though that last one will likely require turning off the flow at the right time. Something much easier with coal power.


Solar-thermal: Step two: Heat exchange.

But of course, this is only the beginning. With heat exchangers and heating oil the system is more complicated to set up, but once it works, it works perfectly. (or with minor heating oil loss over time, whichever works)

The oil and water pass through the heat exchangers through separate pipes separate lines and both fluids are allowed to flow freely, basically as a 3x1 or 3x3 boiler that uses no fuel, and as they remain in the same heat exchanger their temperatures slowly equalize. With this, two fluid cycles exist instead of one: one for oil gaining heat in solar panels, losing it in heat exchanges, and returning the the panels and the offshore pump --> heat source --> steam engine chain we all know and love.

The core idea with heating oil and heat exchangers however, is that in order to heat up a given amount of water, you only need a fraction as much oil, meaning that the oil travels slower. If your fluid is traveling a third as fast, it's spending three times as long solar panel, and thus each panel is three times as efficient.*

Now there are two ways to do this: Either the oil can get much hotter much easier, or it can have a higher specific heat than water. (read: the recipe for the heat exchanger only drops it one degree for every three degrees it heats up the water) I favor water having the higher specific heat and oil having the higher temperature, because means that a countercurrent exchange, while it is naturally more efficient, is not strictly necessary, instead being a neat trick players reward themselves for finding. Which is a theme here: This entire setup with solar-thermal is the game finding a dozen ways to say "Hey, you don't have to do this, and it is a bigger problem/harder puzzle/small extra thing to consider... but it's better." and teaching players to chase that voice.

The fact that oil getting hotter but having a lower specific heat is more realistic... is just icing on the cake really. That said, this specific heat stuff isn't actually necessary and if it's not worth changing the code, there are workarounds.

In any event, you've set up your solar plant with heat exchangers and heating oil and now you're doing great: You've got a setup where you've got a bunch of of solar panels setup to run, three times as efficient as before.


Solar-thermal: Step three: Optimization.

Finally, and this is the insidious part, eventually you're going to hit a peak: Pumping capacity.

With inline pumps, fluid can only travel so fast and so far. About 750 tiles for a single pump working at 30 units/second but that length decreases massively as you add more speed.

Now I haven't actually tested this, but from everything I know it makes sense that out in the reaches, you can just send oil through your pipes in parallel. Up back at the base and for longer steam engine lines, where your mixing all those fluid lines together at the central power hub, you need to pump differently. And thus the player is encouraged to learn the mechanics of high speed pumping.

In the end, the greater the throughput of the heating oil, the bigger the solar farm can be, and the more engines it can power. And once you hit a peak, or are happy with what you want, you just copy the pieces of the setup into your blueprints, and paste it down again when you need it anew.

Final notes:

All of this is based on a few very simple and knowable principles:

1: Solar panels and heat exchangers, like boilers, don't pump fluid but merely heat up or equalize the temperature of the fluid(s) as it remains within the object and the object has a source of energy.

2: Steam engines burn through a set amount of water per second to produce power. More steam engines need more hot water.

3: Fluids in Factorio have a speed limit, based on distance, which can be overcome via adding more pumps, more frequently.

So you go from step one! "Hey! Free boilers by daylight!" To step two: "Oil and heat exhangers triple the efficiency!" To step three: "Pumping mechanics help make my system bigger!"

So this is why I proposed solar-thermal: it's three new items, a solar boiler, a fluid that gets hotter than usual (and it can even just be light oil, heavy oil, or petroleum gas with some code changed), and a boiler that equalizes the temperatures of different fluids with a bias based on specific heat, but it gets this complex. And each machine is pretty simple and behaves with very consistent principles.

And it's still only ever as complex as you let it get. It's a patient puzzle that challenges the player in their own time.

Footnote:

*Why specifically three times as efficient? Three reasons: First and most importantly it's a big number that rewards the most complicated part of the setup process. Secondly, using oil as a working fluid needs to be at least twice as efficient as using water as a working fluid, in order to match the flow rate of offshore pumps to the flow rate of small pumps and make the third stage meaningful. Finally, in the real world water has a specific heat of ~4 and boils at 100 degrees Celsius. Oils have a specific heat of ~2 (a little more for petroleum based oils, a little less for vegetable oils) and the peak temperature of steam engine based solar thermal energy is around 600 degrees Celsius. So realism as a tool to inform gameplay.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by bobucles » Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:19 pm

Replacing solar electric with solar thermal could be a neat thing. There are some pressing issues however.

1) Closed liquid loops don't function very well. I've seen the nuclear mod attempt it and it's not pretty as the fluid system seems to need air bubbles to work properly. That's a major reason why steam engines consume their water in the first place, so players don't have to concern themselves with loops.

2) Lack of sensors to supplement the system. This system makes it very important that cold liquids get excluded from storage containers and heat exchangers. Otherwise the player is moving cold oil, which is pointless, or storing up cold water, which will devastate the system with every sundown.

3) Map starts with only starting water become completely invalidated. There is an absolute limit to the player's water supply, after which they can no longer generate energy using steam power, after which they reach total peak energy. They will need another energy source.

4) You can already store supplemental energy in the form of hot water tanks. It's relatively pointless because regular fuel boilers can cook on the fly just fine, and aren't a huge issue to have.

What if both systems exist? If the player still has electric solar, then they'll just like use that and not care about thermal solar. Sure there may be a price point where one thing excels over the other, so at the best it becomes a matter of personal choice. But if the player chooses electric, nothing changes.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by The Phoenixian » Fri Jan 08, 2016 9:00 pm

bobucles wrote:Replacing solar electric with solar thermal could be a neat thing. There are some pressing issues however.

1) Closed liquid loops don't function very well. I've seen the nuclear mod attempt it and it's not pretty as the fluid system seems to need air bubbles to work properly. That's a major reason why steam engines consume their water in the first place, so players don't have to concern themselves with loops.

2) Lack of sensors to supplement the system. This system makes it very important that cold liquids get excluded from storage containers and heat exchangers. Otherwise the player is moving cold oil, which is pointless, or storing up cold water, which will devastate the system with every sundown.

3) Map starts with only starting water become completely invalidated. There is an absolute limit to the player's water supply, after which they can no longer generate energy using steam power, after which they reach total peak energy. They will need another energy source.

4) You can already store supplemental energy in the form of hot water tanks. It's relatively pointless because regular fuel boilers can cook on the fly just fine, and aren't a huge issue to have.

What if both systems exist? If the player still has electric solar, then they'll just like use that and not care about thermal solar. Sure there may be a price point where one thing excels over the other, so at the best it becomes a matter of personal choice. But if the player chooses electric, nothing changes.
Sorry for the wait, in any case, you have good points here:


1) I think there are two ways around this. As things stand now, you can have a small pump between the production and a storage tank wired up to stop the inflow once a certain limit is reached. (Say 1.5k to 2k in the tank)

Alternatively, you could make it more new player friendly via having heat exchangers consume,"denature", a small amount of heating oil for every 10-100 degrees of temperature exchanged down to 100 degrees. So it's not perfect but it's more forgiving of mistakes.

Heh, you could even have a way to graduate players from the easy method to the slightly harder one via a technology to make heat exchangers consume less and less of the oil that flows through them. So the more forgiving it is the higher the maintenance cost but you can cut that cost, or even remove it entirely, once you know how to work the game.

2) Yes, some kind of temperature or day/night sensor is absolutely necessary for fluid energy storage in a system like this. That said, I think you might be able to build a ghetto version of a temperature sensor via having a boiler after the heat exhangers or solar panels, and monitoring it's fuel consumption. (As in: if it uses any fuel at all, deactivate the pumps leading into the storage tanks for a few minutes.)

For a non-storage system you can still use boilers for night and once again it's less efficient but it's easier.

3) This isn't something I'd normally think of. Hmm...

Ultimately, I think this is the same case as megabases, and this style of gameplay simply needs a power system tailor made for it. Like Nuclear. Alternatively: groundwater wells. But yeah, without giving the player other options then, unless you're keeping your base below a certain limit set by the size of those starting ponds, I can't see a way around this.

4) Yes, that was the inspiration. Oil storage just means you have 3 times the energy storage per tile.

As far as having solar-thermal and PV together you're quite right: For the two to exist together they would need to be balanced very differently.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab » Thu Jan 21, 2016 8:01 am

I have yet to see a competitive speed runner even consider the idea of using solar panels. I guess that for them it is actually steam that is a no brainier.

You can mass produced steam power WAY cheaper and WAY faster and WAY sooner than solar hands down no contest. While the power that single coal patch can provide is not technically infinite... as far as the needs of a normal play through are concerned (launching 1 rocket and that is it), it might as well be. Furthermore, it is not like getting a second coal patch connected back to base is a hard and painful task by any stretch of imagination. Consider instead the extreme resource and time cost of solar vs steam...

A typical steam setup (1 pump, 14 boilers, 10 engine, 14 inserters, 50 belts and 2 drill) cost:
70 stones
396 Iron Plates
30 Copper Plates
Tech needed: none
Easily crafted from pocket

The equivalent in solar power (not even counting the power poles needed to interconnect everything):
5838 Iron Plates (lots of it actually steel)
3892.5 Copper Plates
1530 Petroleum Gas (which need to be process all the way up to batteries)
Tech needed: 10-13 (depending on how wasteful/efficient you want to be with oil)
Needs factory complete with oil setup

I think that it is not hard to see why speed runners can't possibly be bothered with something so ridiculously more expensive.
The upfront cost of solar power is not trivial people. As a matter of fact, when you really think about it, going super heavy on solar power only ever make sense when you plan on playing this game for way longer than it was designed to be.

A megabase for example. That thing where you launch a rocket every 60 seconds. Or that megatrain thing that Steejo is doing where he need 1 full wagon for every item types in the game. There is nothing wrong with spending 100+ hours within the same map/save building monstrous thing. Really, it is ok and fun to do.

But I don't think that the devs should be balancing the game around that. I think that the people complaining in this thread may have lost track of that somewhere along the way while building their over sized factories. They have reached a point where they are having trouble finding something to do and they notice that solar is maintenance free while steam require slight maintenance but they forget what it toke to build that epic solar array.

PS: I would like to mention in passing that solar power is not 100% pollution free. Because actually using that power usually produce way more pollution than the boilers would have. Especially with a big base making extensive use of speed and production modules. Solar is only a discount on pollution and not as much as people might imagine. Now if you start spamming efficiency modules everywhere that is an other story. But from what I have seen from the community few people actually do that.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by bobingabout » Thu Jan 21, 2016 10:46 am

Zhab wrote:I have yet to see a competitive speed runner even consider the idea of using solar panels. I guess that for them it is actually steam that is a no brainier.....

And you forgot to even mention Accumulators :P
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab » Thu Jan 21, 2016 6:40 pm

bobingabout wrote:And you forgot to even mention Accumulators :P
Well... When I said solar I really meant solar and accumulators. I don't think that using solar panels by themselves is much of a thing that experienced players do. It is an other story with accumulators, but by saying no solar it kinda also strongly implies no accumulators as well. At least in my book. Sorry if I was no clear enough.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Afforess » Sat Jan 23, 2016 5:23 am

I've been thinking about the problem of solar panels for a while, and this seems the perfect forum for discussion.
ssilk wrote:This type of discussion is comming every 2-3 month. My answer is simple: Change the solar input in a way, that it is more random.
In the moment you do that Solar Panels are no no-brainer anymore. You need to calculate: Will the next solar eclipse be so big, that I come through with my solar power?

See
https://forums.factorio.com/forum/vie ... f=80&t=183
https://forums.factorio.com/forum/vie ... f=6&t=6181
I think the mentality here is highly concerning. Any time you try to solve a balance problem by increasing the amount of grinding in the game, you haven't solve the original problem and instead created a new one. It takes me only a few seconds to see the outcome that will occur if ssilk's proposal is implemented - players will build 10-20x extra solar, so they can survive eclipses. This is not interesting. This is not fun gameplay. This is just adding more grinding. If people want grinding, they can go install the Marathon mod, but it shouldn't be part of the design of vanilla gameplay. Randomized power generation is a solution looking for a problem, not a solution to the solar problem.

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Zhab wrote:I have yet to see a competitive speed runner even consider the idea of using solar panels. I guess that for them it is actually steam that is a no brainier.
I don't think Factorio developers or the community should look at speed-runners for balance. Speed runners are not representative samples of average players, nor play the game the way it was intended to be played.

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I think the wrong approach is to try to balance or fix solar panels at all. Solar power has been in Factorio too long, and has created too many cached thoughts on how power generation should work. It's probably a lost cause. Ax it. Maybe a year or two after solar power is removed from the game, with new players who have never used it, it will be possible to have a productive discussion on how to include it.

I suspect the entire discussion here about solar power is asking the wrong question. The wrong question is how to fix the balance of solar power. The right question is: If we were designing a new power source from scratch for Factorio, what power sources would be iterative, technological advancements over coal-fired steam boilers?

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab » Sat Jan 23, 2016 11:02 am

Afforess wrote:I don't think Factorio developers or the community should look at speed-runners for balance. Speed runners are not representative samples of average players, nor play the game the way it was intended to be played.
I am of a contradicting opinion where I believe that speed runners actually reveal what is truly efficient vs what is just cool to play with. Factorio isn't a twitch reflex action game. Clicking fast with precision will only get you so far. Underneath that speed is hidden the real secret to speed running. Being efficient... as efficient as you possibly can get. Fast clicking will save you minutes however "factory layout" efficiency and build order efficiency will save you several hours. Here we are arguing that solar power is OP as all hell and yet players obsess with effectiveness can't care less about it. I see a damning contradiction here. Indeed if solar is that effective, great, amazing or better than steam in any which way imaginable why is it ignored by speed runners ?

Side note: Playing with an optimized map does change things somewhat. But does not really affect power generation. But even if you think it does speed running with default map value is a thing. At which point the game style is the same only faster and optimized.

But fine, you believe that speed runners do not reveal anything whatsoever about the game balance. That is alright. You disagree with that fine. I only used speed runners as a contradicting example. It was not actually my argument. Did you read the ressource cost comparison from my previous post ?

Do you deny that solar is overwhelmingly more expensive than steam ? Yes you might run out of coal if you use a lot of steam engines and and lot of steel furnaces. However, getting an extra coal patch connected to base represent only a fraction of the extra upfront cost of solar power. If your base need around 40 GW that is over 40000 extra iron plates needed if you use solar vs steam (there is copper and petroleum too). That is a lot of ressources. Consider if you please all the things you can do with all that iron and copper if you do not need to use it for power. (You would think that speed runners playing on an optimized map would have an easier time coming up with those extra ressources and yet they still think it is pointless)

In my honest humble opinion... You do not need to be a speed runner to care about spending over 20 times more ressources, energy and time... gathering, smelting and building and then placing down just so you wont need coal for power anymore. This game isn't that long people. Launching a rocket isn't that hard. Even a beginner taking his or her sweet sweet time getting there will still launch a rocket quicker and easier by using steam power. With that being said. This is a game. Building a solar array can be a fun thing to do. Messing around different solar panel and accumulators layout and what not. It can be a cool little project that can certainly entertain a player (especially for the first few times).

But that doesn't make solar OP. As a matter of fact, only when you are going out of your way to make the game longer than it should does solar power actually becomes truly worthwhile. Like challenging yourself to be able to launch a rocket every 60 seconds or something.

Now if you are going to claim that speed runners have nothing to do with game balance... then I would argue that "megabase" builders are not any better in that regard.
Afforess wrote:Ax it. Maybe a year or two after solar power is removed from the game, with new players who have never used it, it will be possible to have a productive discussion on how to include it.
Are you for real ? Because some players feels there is a problem with solar power while plenty of others are fine with the way it is... your big solution to satisfy a portion of the community complaining about a feature (that they do want) is to remove it entirely ? For a full year no less ? You would be a fun dev to deal with...
Afforess wrote:I suspect the entire discussion here about solar power is asking the wrong question. The wrong question is how to fix the balance of solar power. The right question is: If we were designing a new power source from scratch for Factorio, what power sources would be iterative, technological advancements over coal-fired steam boilers?
In my opinion the better question to ask even before that is "is solar panel actually OP or does it only feel OP to some people based on their gut feeling rather than math ?". Indeed the first question to ask here is "Does it even need fixing ?". Some say yes, some say no. My personal answer is a firm no. When your automated factory is building stuff for you it is easy to lose track of how much stuff actually cost and I think that this is what is happening here. People are under the impression that they get 100% free power but totally forgot about the build cost. Only by spreading that enormous build cost over a longer and longer still period of time does solar eventually becomes profitable. Eventually...unity.
Last edited by Zhab on Sat Jan 23, 2016 10:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Koub » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:05 pm

The problem with this discussion about how something is OP or not is that everybody calls OP something different. Just because people have uneven skills, some of them might find something OP while others still struggle with that supposedly OP thing.

Why not remove combat bots, tank, shotgun, smg and pistol ? they are all OP, just give us a knife - hell even a butterknife. Well for some people, maybe, but even after hundreds of hours of play, I have yet never done a single playthrough without cheating with the console because at some point, I was ganked by early biter coming when I wasn't prepared. That's for me. Now there are people who play games with maximum biters, maximum nests, scarce ressources, just because they find the "medium" maps too easy.

I think Vanilla should be mediumly balanced, and for people with extreme needs, modding should be the way. As it is, you have :
- One non renewable energy source (boilers+steam) which is very cheap to build (research, ressource and space wise), but you have to take care of fueling, and can burn tons of ressources on the long run
- One renewable energy source (solar+accus), which is very expensive to build (in research, space, and ressources), but you can place and forget, and dont use up more than their initial building costs.

Both are complimentary and allow whatever playstyle you choose. I would be eager to see new options be added for diversity, with new balanced advantges and disadvantages (wind, geothermic, nuclear fusion and/or fission, ...), but not cripple one option until it's just not used by anyone anymore because it's too useless.
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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by The Phoenixian » Sat Jan 23, 2016 12:48 pm

Afforess wrote: I think the wrong approach is to try to balance or fix solar panels at all. Solar power has been in Factorio too long, and has created too many cached thoughts on how power generation should work. It's probably a lost cause. Ax it. Maybe a year or two after solar power is removed from the game, with new players who have never used it, it will be possible to have a productive discussion on how to include it.
I agree with much of what you've said but this bit? Is very silly.

You do not need to destroy a part of the game completely and bring in an entire new generation of players simply in order to hold an honest discussion about it.

Simply engage in debate with the intention of learning, exposing yourself, and exposing your ideas to the new ideas, new modes of thinking, and criticisms of others, respectively, as much as espousing your own thoughts is enough to overcome most preconceptions*. Pulling ideas from a wide variety of sources and thinking long and hard will do the much of the rest.

For example: Getting bobucles input on my solar-thermal concept was quite welcome.

*A bit of light research into what the word "cached thought" actually meant showed that it was basically a more "rationalist" way of saying "preconception." From said same research I can't tell if what the author of the Less Wrong article did there was slightly silly or very sinister.
Afforess wrote:I suspect the entire discussion here about solar power is asking the wrong question. The wrong question is how to fix the balance of solar power. The right question is: If we were designing a new power source from scratch for Factorio, what power sources would be iterative, technological advancements over coal-fired steam boilers?
I would heartily disagree with the first part of this statement but as to your chosen "right question"...

By all means, explain your thinking and where it would lead you. I wish to pick it apart so that I may use the choice bits improve my own ideas.
Zhab wrote:
Afforess wrote:I don't think Factorio developers or the community should look at speed-runners for balance. Speed runners are not representative samples of average players, nor play the game the way it was intended to be played.
-snippped: the merits of speedrunning as a playstyle to be balanced against-
I think what speed runners, or megabase builders, or any other playstyle have to bring to the table is different ideas of "What is efficient?" and "What is powerful?" along with different needs to support their playstyles.

For megabase builders, efficiency is "What's cheap to maintain in vast numbers?" For speed runners it's "What's fastest?"

Speed runners aren't so much the "right" solution as "one of many" solutions. Certainly by their idea of efficiency Solar power is underpowered, but at the same time someone less focused on time and more on maintenance costs, coal and oil supply, or pollution will find Solar power to be quite potent.

I do agree with Afforess though that we shouldn't balance Solar power around a speed runner's perspective but that is simply because solar isn't meant to support the speed runner's playstyle. Nor do I see any reason for it to be.


Which also brings up the question of "what playstyles is solar meant to support and what is needed we support other styles if we alter the balance?"

For example, my "solar thermal" idea could be made better for "Water only in the starting region" maps by introducing a Rankine engine that had water flow in a cycle without being used up.

...Incidentally, I am beginning to understand why my mentor hated supporting more than one way to play his game. Though I still disagree with him.

Koub wrote:The problem with this discussion about how something is OP or not is that everybody calls OP something different. Just because people have uneven skills, some of them might find something OP while others still struggle with that supposedly OP thing.
The problem is that simple "power" is not the only thing about this problem. Certainly it's not the core of the solar problem.

The problem with solar, from my perspective, was that it's not so much "overpowered" as "powerful in it's realm, but very boring." It's a plug and play item that just works in a game where everything else is a giant logistics puzzle. There's one part, the solar to accumulator ratio, that you might fiddle with once but beyond that? There's very little puzzle to it.

Worse: There isn't even anything viscerally appealing about solar. Thus you don't fiddle around with the interesting mechanics of Solar power nor do you marvel at the vast quantities of stuff you placed down every time you drive by on the way to the outposts.
The greatest gulf that we must leap is the gulf between each other's assumptions and conceptions. To argue fairly, we must reach consensus on the meanings and values of basic principles. -Thereisnosaurus

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by Zhab » Sat Jan 23, 2016 1:55 pm

Koub wrote:The problem with this discussion about how something is OP or not is that everybody calls OP something different. Just because people have uneven skills, some of them might find something OP while others still struggle with that supposedly OP thing.
I fully agree. Which is why various play styles should be considered before labeling something as OP.
Koub wrote:I think Vanilla should be mediumly balanced, and for people with extreme needs, modding should be the way. As it is, you have :
- One non renewable energy source (boilers+steam) which is very cheap to build (research, ressource and space wise), but you have to take care of fueling, and can burn tons of ressources on the long run
- One renewable energy source (solar+accus), which is very expensive to build (in research, space, and ressources), but you can place and forget, and dont use up more than their initial building costs.
Again... exactly. Where is the problem ?
Koub wrote:Both are complimentary and allow whatever playstyle you choose. I would be eager to see new options be added for diversity, with new balanced advantges and disadvantages (wind, geothermic, nuclear fusion and/or fission, ...), but not cripple one option until it's just not used by anyone anymore because it's too useless.
New options for power generation would be nice. I believe it is a frequent suggestion and is something often added by mods. Must be a reason why.
The Phoenixian wrote:I do agree with Afforess though that we shouldn't balance Solar power around a speed runner's perspective but that is simply because solar isn't meant to support the speed runner's playstyle. Nor do I see any reason for it to be.
Well that is fine and dandy... however, it should not be balanced around megabase builders either. I'm convinced that the most common play style is fumbling your way through factorio until you manage to launch a rocket. These players play the game once and then maybe replay a few times to try different things or see if they can do thing slightly better. Then they close factorio and move on to other games. They may come back after a major update or to try out a mod. Once this game hit steam I guaranty you that we'll see a bunch of these players popping for a while asking questions.

Those who stick around the forum, post pictures of epic builds or argue about game balance are the minority (factorio addicts).

Side Note: If the devs finally get around to implementing the space section of the game... then what ? You are not bringing your base (and it's power generation) with you in space now are you ?
The Phoenixian wrote:The problem with solar, from my perspective, was that it's not so much "overpowered" as "powerful in it's realm, but very boring." It's a plug and play item that just works in a game where everything else is a giant logistics puzzle. There's one part, the solar to accumulator ratio, that you might fiddle with once but beyond that? There's very little puzzle to it.

Worse: There isn't even anything viscerally appealing about solar. Thus you don't fiddle around with the interesting mechanics of Solar power nor do you marvel at the vast quantities of stuff you placed down every time you drive by on the way to the outposts.
This is something that I could possibly agree with. What you are saying here is that it's not that solar panels are overpowered and are in dire need of a nerf... That is not the real problem. The problem is that they quickly become a boring element of the game after you've figured them out and played with them for a while.

This doesn't call for a nerf of solar power but rather a mechanic change to make them a more exciting element of the game to play with. I'm ok with that.

From my point of view steam isn't that much more exciting. I mean how complexe is feeding coal to boilers can be... I easily imagine that this too can quickly become tedious after a lot of play through. Yeah yeah... feeding coal to boilers... been there done that. What else is new ? In this case solar becomes a way to "get done" with power and forget about it. Allowing you to spend more time on other game elements that you do still enjoy messing around with without periodically having to worry about that damn boring power thing again.

I'm guessing that some people reach a point where they are so desperate for something to do that even taking care of coal supply is better than nothing... At which point it might be more worthwhile to start over or better yet start over with mods to freshen the game a bit. But maybe that is just me.

But basically adding content to the game by making solar more exciting ? Yeah ok. Why not ? Why just solar thou ? Why not steam as well or better yet new forms of power generation ?

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Re: Solar panels less of a no-brainer

Post by The Phoenixian » Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:01 pm

Zhab wrote:
The Phoenixian wrote:I do agree with Afforess though that we shouldn't balance Solar power around a speed runner's perspective but that is simply because solar isn't meant to support the speed runner's playstyle. Nor do I see any reason for it to be.
Well that is fine and dandy... however, it should not be balanced around megabase builders either. I'm convinced that the most common play style is fumbling your way through factorio until you manage to launch a rocket. These players play the game once and then maybe replay a few times to try different things or see if they can do thing slightly better. Then they close factorio and move on to other games. They may come back after a major update or to try out a mod. Once this game hit steam I guaranty you that we'll see a bunch of these players popping for a while asking questions.
I agree with you on megabases in theory, but in practice the thing for them is that solar is their only real option where as for speedruns solar is quantifiably worse (and even then, the note in this thread is that solar for megabases is just less unacceptable). Adding nuclear power or some such power source designed specifically for working well in bases with super massive power requirements and a lot of other things to take care of could fix that though.
Zhab wrote:
The Phoenixian wrote:The problem with solar, from my perspective, was that it's not so much "overpowered" as "powerful in it's realm, but very boring." It's a plug and play item that just works in a game where everything else is a giant logistics puzzle. There's one part, the solar to accumulator ratio, that you might fiddle with once but beyond that? There's very little puzzle to it.

Worse: There isn't even anything viscerally appealing about solar. Thus you don't fiddle around with the interesting mechanics of Solar power nor do you marvel at the vast quantities of stuff you placed down every time you drive by on the way to the outposts.
-snip-

But basically adding content to the game by making solar more exciting ? Yeah ok. Why not ? Why just solar thou ? Why not steam as well or better yet new forms of power generation ?
One reason and one reason only: This is a solar thread. :P

But yes, other forms of interesting power generation would be nice. I would say though that while steam is boring in concept, the fueling of it does make it interesting to newer players in the Chinese sense of the word. Basically it's not a complex process, but between problems like running out of fuel in the mines or outgrowing your electric supply and having your mines shut down in a death spiral, steam has quite a bit of potential to go wrong in the best ways. So it helps provide an impetus for expansion and a reason for watching out for your base.
The greatest gulf that we must leap is the gulf between each other's assumptions and conceptions. To argue fairly, we must reach consensus on the meanings and values of basic principles. -Thereisnosaurus

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